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UND student totals down

GRAND FORKS, N.D.

Graphic: Enrollment trend

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The University of North Dakota's enrollment has been on a steady decline since peaking at slightly more than 13,000 students in 2004.

School officials have tied the enrollment decline to increased admissions requirements instituted in 2005, large graduating classes and troubles in the national airline industry that have trickled down to the school's hallmark aviation programs.

But a Herald analysis of UND enrollment for the past nine years suggests one major culprit may be North Dakota State University.

NDSU, traditionally the state's second-largest school, has greatly increased its share of the state's dwindling pool of new high school graduates.

NDSU saw only slightly smaller growth than UND leading up to UND's 2004 enrollment apex and, in contrast to UND's decline, has continued to grow steadily in the past three years.

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This fall, NDSU enrolled only 32 fewer students than UND, as close as it has ever come to being the state's enrollment leader, and the school looks poised to overtake UND next year.

NDSU topped UND in in-state enrollment for the third time this year.

Despite UND's increased focus on attracting out-of-state students from strategic states that are distant from the northern Great Plains, NDSU nearly matched UND's out-of-state enrollment this year, drawing only 53 fewer non-North Dakota students.

Looking only at the roughly 50 percent of each school's students that come from North Dakota, NDSU has consolidated its reach across the state's 53 counties and nearly all of its population hubs.

In 2007, NDSU enrolled more students than UND in 33 of the state's 53 counties. UND enrolled more students than NDSU in 17 counties. The two schools tied in three counties.

Between 1998 and 2007, NDSU showed a greater enrollment gain (or smaller drop) than UND in 38 North Dakota counties, or about 72 percent.

Out of 10 selected high-population North Dakota counties, NDSU saw enrollment growth in all but one between 1998 and 2007, while UND saw growth in only six. During that same time period, NDSU's growth outpaced UND's in all but two of those counties.

Officials at both schools said they do not view in-state enrollment as competition.

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"We have some very loyal alumni, and some will insist that we must be higher than other schools even if it's only by one student," said Bob Boyd UND vice president of student and outreach services. "We appreciate that. But comparisons of that nature tell us very little other than that one number is bigger than the other."

Prakash Mathew, NDSU's vice president for student affairs, tied his school's rapid enrollment growth to greater visibility after the school's move to Division I athletics, a raft of new programs and a spirit of growth that pervades the university.

The Grand Forks Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

UND student totals down By Joseph Marks 20071120

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